Books about Irish Heritage
St. Patrick’s Day is almost here, and we are celebrating Irish literary traditions. Check out this booklist that features books either by well-known Irish authors and/or about the Irish experience. The books are grouped for adults, teenagers and children and can be borrowed from the Roslindale Library.
Hidden History of the Boston Irish: Little-known Stories From Ireland’s “next Parish Over”
By Peter Stevens
When it comes to Irish America, certain names spring to mind–Kennedy, O’Neill, and Curley testify to the proverbial “footsteps of the Gael” in Boston. However, few people know of Sister Mary Anthony O’Connell, whose medical prowess carried her from the convent to the Civil War battlefields, earning her the nickname “the Boston Irish Florence Nightingale,” or of Barney McGinniskin, Boston’s first Irish cop, who proudly roared at every roll call, “McGinniskin from the bogs of Ireland–present!” Along with acclaim or notoriety, many forgotten Irish Americans garnered numerous historical firsts. In Hidden History of the Boston Irish, Peter F. Stevens offers an entertaining and compelling portrait of the Irish immigrant saga and pays homage to the overlooked, yet significant, episodes of the Boston Irish experience.
By James Joyce
Though James Joyce began these stories of Dublin life in 1904 when he was twenty-two and completed them in 1907, their unconventional themes and language led to repeated rejections by publishers and delayed publication until 1914. In the century since, his story “The Dead” has come to be seen as one of the most powerful evocations of human loss and longing that the English language possesses; all the other stories in Dubliners are as beautifully turned and as greatly admired. They remind us once again that James Joyce was not only modernism’s chief innovator but also one of its most intimate and poetic writers.
In The Woods
By Tana French
As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours. Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox–his partner and closest friend–find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.
By Colm Tóibín
Leaving her home in post-World War II Ireland to work as a bookkeeper in Brooklyn, Eilis Lacey discovers a new romance in America with a charming blond Italian man before devastating news threatens her happiness.
By Frank McCourt
Despite impoverishing his family because of his alcoholism, McCourt’s father passed on to his son a gift for superb storytelling. He told him about the great Irish heroes, the old days in Ireland, the people in their Limerick neighborhood, and the world beyond their shores. McCourt writes in the voice of the childwith no self-pity or review of eventsand just retells the tales. He recounts his desperately poor early years, living on public assistance and losing three siblings, but manages to make the book funny and uplifting. Stories of trying on his parents’ false teeth and his adventures as a post-office delivery boy will have readers laughing out loud. Young people will recognize the truth in these compelling tales; the emotions expressed; the descriptions of teachers, relatives, neighbors; and the casual cruelty adults show toward children.
By Emma Donoghue
It’s Jack’s birthday and he’s excited about turning five. Jack lives with his Ma in Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measures 11 feet by 11 feet. He loves watching TV but he knows that nothing he sees on screen is truly real. Until the day Ma admits that there’s a world outside.
P.S. I Love You
By Cecilia Ahern
Holly has always depended on her husband’s practical advice to keep her going and despairs when she loses him to brain cancer until a package arrives filled with advice for carrying on with her life without her beloved husband.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
By Oscar Wilde
An exquisitely beautiful young man in Victorian England retains his youthful and innocent appearance over the years while his portrait reflects both his age and evil soul as he pursues a life of decadence and corruption.
By Jonathan Swift
Combining travel narrative and powerful satire, GULLIVER’S TRAVELS was an immediate success when it was published in 1726. As soon as Lemuel Gulliver is shipwrecked on the island of Lilliput, Swift’s distortion of reality begins and man is seen as a diminished, magnified, abstracted, and finally bestial species. Whether expurgated and adapted for children or read as a biting and incisive satire on humanity, the novel continues to appeal to readers on a variety of levels.
Waiting for Godot
By Samuel Beckett
From an inauspicious beginning at the tiny Left Bank Theatre de Babylone in 1953, followed by bewilderment among American and British audiences, Waiting for Godot has become of the most important and enigmatic plays of the past fifty years and a cornerstone of twentieth-century drama.
Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850
By Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Black Potatoes is the compelling story of men, women, and children who defied landlords and searched empty fields for scraps of harvested vegetables and edible weeds to eat, who walked several miles each day to hard-labor jobs for meager wages and to reach soup kitchens, and who committed crimes just to be sent to jail, where they were assured of a meal. It’s the story of children and adults who suffered from starvation, disease, and the loss of family and friends, as well as those who died. Illustrated with black and white engravings, it’s also the story of the heroes among the Irish people and how they held on to hope.
Hush: An Irish Princess’ Tale
By Donna Jo Napoli
Fifteen-year-old Melkorka, an Irish princess, is kidnapped by Russian slave traders and not only learns how to survive but to challenge some of the brutality of her captors, who are fascinated by her apparent muteness and the possibility that she is enchanted.
By Walter Dean Myers
In 1863, fifteen-year-old Claire, the daughter of an Irish mother and an African father, faces ugly truths and great danger when Irish immigrants, enraged by the Civil War and a federal draft, lash out against African-Americans and wealthy “swells” of New York City.
Bury the Living
By Jodi McIssac
Rebellion has always been in the O’Reilly family’s blood. So when faced with the tragic death of her brother during Northern Ireland’s infamous Troubles, a teenage Nora joined the IRA to fight for her country’s freedom. Now, more than a decade later, Nora is haunted by both her past and vivid dreams of a man she has never met. When she is given a relic belonging to Brigid of Kildare, patron saint of Ireland, the mystical artifact transports her back eighty years–to the height of Ireland’s brutal civil war. There she meets the alluring stranger from her dreams, who has his own secrets and agenda. Taken out of her own time, Nora has the chance to alter the fortunes of Ireland.
Tales of St. Patrick
By Eileen Dunlop
A fictionalized account of the life of Saint Patrick, first Bishop of Ireland, from the time he was taken to Ireland as a slave when he was sixteen years old through his life-long efforts to Christianize the Irish people.
Small Beauties: The Journey of Darcy Heart O’Hara
By Elvira Woodruff
Darcy Heart O’Hara, a young Irish girl who neglects her chores to observe the beauties of nature and everyday life, shares “family memories” with her homesick parents and siblings after the O’Haras are forced to emigrate to America in the 1840s.
The St. Patrick’s Day Shillelagh
By Janet Nolan
On his way from Ireland to America to escape the potato famine, young Fergus carves a shillelagh from his favorite blackthorn tree, and each St. Patrick’s Day for generations, his story is retold by one of his descendants.
By Patricia Reilly Giff
In the shadow of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, eighth-graders and new neighbors Bird Mallon and Thomas Neary make some decisions about what they want to do with their lives.
My Last Skirt: The Story of Jennie Hodgers, Union Soldier
By Lynda Durrant
Enjoying the freedom afforded her while dressing as a boy in order to earn higher pay after emigrating from Ireland, Jennie Hodgers serves in the 95th Illinois Infantry as Private Albert Cashier, a Union soldier in the American Civil War.
By Barbara Russell
In New Orleans in 1898, while her mother talks of saving to buy land and her father insists on the importance of an education, young Irish immigrant Maggie McCrary is determined to find her own way in the new place they call home.
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